What Is A Mala?
A mala is an ancient tool and type of prayer beads often used during meditation or «japa» (mantra meditation) to count the 108 repetitions of a mantra. Malas appear to have originated around the 8th century B.C.E. in India. Mantras were one of the earliest components of yoga and thought to have been one of the first types of meditation. Using a mala allows one to focus on the mantra and breathing instead of the counting!
There are 108 beads on a Japa mala and one Guru or Teacher bead for 109. The guru bead is where all of the energy from practicing japa are stored. A prayer bracelet is made of 27 beads in order to facilitate the 27, 54 or 108 repetitions.
Interesting Mala fact! Mala is sanskrit for garland and japa means recitation. Japa Mala are prayer beads for meditation. Japa mala was adapted into other languages as the use and popularity of prayer beads spread. When the Romans invaded India, they mistook japa for jap, the Latin word for rose. Upon returning to Rome, mala beads were referred to as rosarium and later became known as rosary beads in English.